Does the Use of Different Indicators to Benchmark Antimicrobial Use Affect Farm Ranking?

Lorcan O'Neill*, Maria Rodrigues da Costa, Finola Leonard, James Gibbons, Julia Adriana Calderón Díaz, Gerard McCutcheon, Edgar García Manzanilla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The need to reduce antimicrobial use (AMU) in livestock production has led to the establishment of national AMU data collection systems in several countries. However, there is currently no consensus on which AMU indicator should be used and many of the systems have defined their own indicators. This study sought to explore the effect of using different internationally recognized indicators on AMU data collected from Irish pig farms and to determine if they influenced the ranking of farms in a benchmarking system. AMU data for 2016 was collected from 67 pig farms (c. 35% of Irish pig production). Benchmarks were defined using seven AMU indicators: two based on weight of active ingredient; four based on the defined daily doses (DDD) used by the European Medicines Agency and the national monitoring systems of Denmark and the Netherlands; and one based on the treatment incidence (TI200) used in several published studies. An arbitrary “action zone,” characterized by farms above an acceptable level of AMU, was set to the upper quartile (i.e., the top 25% of users, n = 17). Each pair of indicators was compared by calculating the Spearman rank correlation and assessing if farms above the threshold for one indicator were also above it for the comparison indicator. The action zone was broadly conserved across all indicators; even when using weight-based indicators. The lowest correlation between indicators was 0.94. Fifteen farms were above the action threshold for at least 6 of the 7 indicators while 10 farms were above the threshold for all indicators. However, there were important differences noted for individual farms between most pairs of indicators. The biggest discrepancies were seen when comparing the TI200 to the weight-based indicators and the TI200 to the DDDANED (as used by Dutch AMU monitoring system). Indicators using the same numerator were the most similar. All indicators used in this study identified the majority of high users. However, the discrepancies noted highlight the fact that different methods of measuring AMU can affect a benchmarking system. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the limitations of any indicator chosen for use in an AMU monitoring system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558793
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Early online date13 Oct 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 13 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • antimicrobial use
  • benchmark
  • defined daily dose
  • indicators
  • pigs


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